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By LARRY VAUGHT

For about 10 days, Antoine Poythress spent time gathering information and having discussions about what future opportunities might be there for his son, Kentucky freshman Alex Poythress.

“We were trying to figure out the best decision and wanted to take our time,” said Antoine Poythress. “I was gathering information from various sources and trying to cross reference it. There is not a lot of concrete information out there. It’s not like you are making a decision based on solid information because what you are told could change.”

Alex Poythress was being projected as a first-round NBA draft pick by some, and evaluated as going much lower — if at all — by others. He started 30 games and was Kentucky’s second-leading scorer (11.4 points per game) and rebounder (6.2) last season. The 6-7 forward, who made the Southeastern Conference all-freshman team, often was criticized by Calipari for his lack of focus.

Finally, Alex Poythress decided it was best for him to stay at UK and not put his name into the draft, a decision his father fully supported.

“We kept being told everything was predicated on (pre-draft) workouts or how he would progress if he came back to Kentucky,” Antoine Poythress said. “I tried to gather as much information as I could, but it was a lot for him to absorb. When we discussed going through the process, we decided we had to evaluate everything and then say, ‘Here are the options and what best meets your needs.’ I left the decision with him but I told him he had to be 100 percent sure whatever he decided was what he wanted to do. There would be no looking back in 30 days.”

That’s why when UK announced Monday that freshman Archie Goodwin was entering the draft but both Kyle Wiltjer and Willie Cauley-Stein were staying for another year, there was no mention of Poythress’ future which led to even more fan and media speculation.

“He was just not 100 percent sure and needed to evaluate a few more things then,” Antoine Poythress said. “I wanted him to be 100 percent sure about his decision.”

Poythress’ father gathered the information so his son would not be involved with “external people” and unduly influenced.

“A lot of people have a vested interest in what they say and I did not know how much clean information we would get that was not twisted,” Antoine Poythress said. “I offered my advice and insight to Alex off what I knew, but he knew it was his decision. I told him, ‘You have got to make a decision that will change your life, so I cannot make that decision for you. In the end, you’ve got to make it work. If you go (to the NBA), you’ve got to have great workouts. If you stay (at UK), you have got to work to address the changes in areas they say you are weak in.’ He accepted all that.”

The UK freshman had to rely on his “gut and heart” to make a life-changing choice on his own.

“I love him, root for him but I cannot put the ball in the basket for him or do the work for him,” Poythress’ father said. “He is the one who has to work and perform. That’s why I just tried to give him information to make his decision. The NCAA hamstrings athletes by making them make this decision so quickly. It was gut-wrenching. It’s life-altering and you have little time to decide.”

Antoine Poythress got conflicting information on his son’s draft status. He was told “he is not ready, but he is still very draftable” by one NBA source. Some told him his son was not ready to go into the draft while others said he might go in the 12 to 20 range of the first round.

“He was not going to be top 10 (in the draft), but I kept getting information from enough people that he had this skill level and with improvement could move up to the middle of the draft or even higher,” Antoine Poythress said. “But nothing is concrete. Nothing is set. There is no 100 percent information.

“I do know he has a lot to his game he has not shown yet. He’s capable of much more than he’s shown, a lot more. There is a lot more skill to be tapped into.”

Alex Poythress also wants to return to win a national championship much like Patrick Patterson did four years ago when he came back after a NIT season and UK reached the Elite Eight or Terrence Jones two years ago when UK did win the title.

“From his standpoint, he did not like the way the season ended,” Antoine Poythress said. “He would like to come back and win a national title and thinks they can do that with the players they will have. That definitely did factor into his decision. Losing this year did not set well with him. It’s not a foregone conclusion they will go 40-0 next year and win the national title. They will have seven or eight freshmen and three or four upperclassmen. It’s a matter of how they blend and mix.”

Kentucky never had the right “blend and mix” this season and ended up in the NIT. Antoine Poythress says a few more wins could have changed the perception of his son’s ability and the team’s standing.

“If they win two or three more games, get to the NCAA and win a game or two, the whole perspective of this year is different. It drives me crazy to think how a bounce or two of the ball can impact so much,” Antoine Poythress said. “But that’s the way it went and now Alex is set to come back, work to get better, have a great year and help Kentucky win the national title.”

20 Responses to Father says Poythress had to rely on “gut and heart” to make decision between UK and NBA but also wanted to come back to win national title

  • hawaiibillT says:

    Thanks Larry for a good look at his family and their perspective on the draft.

  • Emily C. says:

    This is so refreshing. Alex is so extremely lucky to have such a great father to give him this sound advice. I look forward to watching him play again next year and help lead us to #9! Go Cats!

  • Karen Sprinkle says:

    I echo Bill’s comments. Here’s my mini-rant of the day: It kills me when people complain about how much time a player is taking to make a decision about where to go to school or whether to leave for the NBA prior to their senior year. We’re talking about a decision that will impact the rest of the young man’s life–I think they should be entitled to take as much time as they need to make an informed decision. Frankly, the NCAA deadline to withdraw from the NBA draft is a travesty. For players whose teams are in the Final Four, it only gives those players a week or so to make a potentially life-changing decision. As Mr. Poythress pointed out, there’s a lot of information to try to get and a lot to absorb. Yeah, the NCAA is all about the student athlete.

  • Laura says:

    I have a lot of respect for Alex’s dad after reading this. I love the way he protected his son from outside influence while still giving him the facts and allowing him to make the decision on his future. Appreciate the fact that he wanted Alex to be 100% sure and have no regrets.

  • Judi Cole says:

    Thanks for sharing Mr Poythress’ comments with us, Larry. He’s a very wise man and Alex is fortunate to have his guidance. I’m really lookig forward to Alex’s return next year and think that he will blossom much like Terrence Jones did. He sure has the athleticism to do that!

    • tapdance says:

      I beg to differ, T Jones, keeps getting called down to the D-league, as with the rest of that class with the exceptions of MKG and A Davis, even though the keep giving Mike chances, he too is not up to par where he needs to be, him being a 2 pick, his numbers should be much higher , imo , his impact is not as explosive as i thought it should be…

  • Mike says:

    Mr. Poythress you have gained a lot of BBN support for your vision and understanding of the situation. Alex has got to be very proud to have you as a father and mentor in his decision making. If he shows 50% of your grasp and understanding, then he and the team will be very well served with his returning. Continued good luck to you, Alex, and the family.

    • larryvaught says:

      Mike I just sent your comments to Antoine. As more folks post, may just send them all to him

  • Mike says:

    Larry…nice touch and thx for that!

  • Love SEC says:

    Alex is certainly fortunate to have the support and analysis of his father.
    Many young men do not have this.

    Antione approached the situation very logically and honestly.
    BBN is fortunate to have this family.
    Looking forward to Alex return!

  • LindaS says:

    What a caring and loving father. He only wants what is best for his son and did the leg work so Alex was not harassed by people and allowed him to make up his own mind what he wants to do. It is so important for parents to have this type of mind set with their children.
    Thank you, sir, the BBN loves ya!

  • King Ghidora says:

    No one seems to have noticed that Poythress drew a whole lot of defensive attention after that string of 4 straight 20 point games. I saw him triple teamed a lot. It’s easy to get by with that when the other forward has trouble creating his own shot and the pg can’t find him when he moves without the ball. Plus the other guard is trying to do too much making the whole team look like a bunch of individuals instead of a team. No one could get a heavily guarded Poythress the ball this year. That will NOT be a problem next year. Poythress is a very talented player IMO. He’s just not a guy who can drive the ball. Still we saw him do very well against quality competition. For example he had 20 against Duke and then 20 more the next 3 games. I believe defenses keyed on him after that and it became obvious UK was a weaker team when he couldn’t get the ball in position to score. Polson played with great heart but that wasn’t enough to get Alex the ball when he was surrounded by defenders. No one else had to be guarded closely on the inside. Notre Dame started that treatment. They held him to 3 points. It wasn’t that he missed a bunch of shots. He only got ONE shot which he made. And he made one free throw of 3. It’s hard to score when you don’t get shots. Coincidentally (?) that was the game that Harrow returned. The next game Harrow took 9 shots. He made 1. Alex took 10 shots and made 6. That was the Baylor game. Before that Poythress went 9 of 12 against Duke followed by games of 9 out of 10, 6 of 12 and 9 out of 11. Then Harrow came back and he got one shot. ONE.

    Alex became the key of defenses and Harrow could not get him decent shots. Goodwin didn’t even try IMO. The only person that became a really good passer the entire year was Wiltjer with the possible exception of Noel. Louisville held him to 4 shots while Harrow and Goodwin took 15 each. And Alex only scored 20 twice the rest of the season. Poythress shot over 63% from the floor. Yes he had trouble creating his own shot. Lots of power forwards have that problem.

    Alex is a great talent that was let down by the team IMO. He won’t have that problem next year. I think he made the right decision because I think he will shine next year. He has the talent. He has already proven that to me. Yes he needs to work on some things. Everyone does including Michael Jordan. Have you seen him play golf? :) And don’t even mention baseball to him.

    • King Ghidora says:

      I meant to point out Alex made 42% of his 3′s. He didn’t have a shooting problem. He had a problem of not getting the ball passed to him when he was open. I think that made him frustrated at times too. Sure players should go all out no matter what. But when you’re working hard and no one gives you the ball you don’t exactly get motivated to keep working hard without the ball. It’s just human nature. Harrow averaged just over 3 assists per game. By comparison Knight averaged 4, Teague averaged 5 and Wall averaged 6.5. Bledsoe averaged almost 3 assists per game coming off the bench.

  • Theresa Crow says:

    Thanks for this story, Larry. Many thanks to Mr. Poythress for giving Alex support, advice and character to make this important decision. I had the privilege of watching Alex play in high school twice his senior year, and I know that there is more to his game than what we were able to see this year, especially when the conference games started. I met Alex and spoke to him after he played at Dickson Co. H.S. last year (my hubby was one of the officials and I was waiting for my hubby near the officials’ dressing room when Alex walked out of the visitors’ dressing room) so I know how fine a young man Alex is from that encounter and also based on the fact that after the game, Alex thanked my husband for calling a good game (that was a first in 20 years of officiating!). This story just goes to show that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Mr. Poythress you did a great job raising Alex, and the BBN is thrilled to have him for one more year!

  • JKM$CAT says:

    Alex could become a beast! Some kids develop quicker than others he’s a good kid with a ton ability. With the talent coming in he should benefit from the pratices and competition. Limited minutes could really help him.

  • Pacman says:

    Larry, thanks for the great story and the “behind the scenes” look at what the players and their families are going through. Sometimes we forget they are people just like us and have many things going on in their lives also. Also thanks for providing much more to your readers than just “sports reporting”. A lot of your stories have life application lessons in them if people will take the time to think about what they are reading and see “between the lines”. This story is a great example of good parenting for a teenage “adult” child. Difficult time for a parent because you don’t want to do too much but you want to protect your child and make sure that make good decisions that could be life altering. For those of us that have been through that we can relate.

  • MM says:

    I for one really believe that AP has talent (Div 1 talent), but that UK and its very vocal fan base just may be too much of a spotlight on this young man. He will not get the playing time next year the he will require for him tp get better. At best, he may be the 3rd reserve off a very deep and very talented bench. I think he would be better off transferring to another Div-1 school where he would have the time to develop his talent….

  • Mike says:

    King G…guess maybe I was watching a different Alex play. You say he was having a problem not getting the ball passed to him. He was disengaged a lot of time and wasn’t moving to try and get open. I rarely remember seeing Alex working hard. I hope the competitive spirit in practice next year will take him to a higher level of play. If not he will riding some serious pine.

  • tapdance says:

    A letter to Mr Poythress, I commend you on gathering up information for you son, not too many Fathers will do this, it means that your not a I call them (Factory Fathers) pushing their child out into a world to make money, let you son develop within his college career, most of them guys still in college are red shirt any way, and he will be just fine, Alex will have to work real hard, I who knows nothing about him, but have been around the program to see what’s been going on, if your son don’t produce this year going into the season, he will be like T Jones as with the rest of the returning players, Coach Cal, likes to push his young kids out into a world, like a mother to a baby bird, the only difference is that baby bird grows up real fast, but a lot of the UK kids don’t pan out in the NBA and fade out to non existence, he would of been better off going to a rival team and playing against UK, his numbers and strength in my opinion would be much better then they are to this day, it’s all about the Hype, and like i said I commend you on saving your son, from what would of been a harsh time with the big Boys (NBA)

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